Senators question Defense's attempts to improve management

Defense Department officials Tuesday defended their plans for improving management of their financial and business systems against charges from members of a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee that their efforts are slow and insufficient.

"I am not sure large quantities of change have occurred," said Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who pressed Pentagon officials to commit to more frequent consultation with the Federal Financial Management Subcommittee and the Government Accountability Office.

At issue is billions of dollars the department spends each year on separate business and financial systems. Defense since 1990 has been attempting to modernize thousands of unique accounting and information systems that limit its ability to track many of its costs.

The department has a large component, the Business Transformation Agency, dedicated to steps such as combining software systems and applying the Lean Six Sigma business improvement methodology across the department.

Defense Principal Deputy Undersecretary David Patterson testified that by 2009 the Pentagon expects to earn clean audit opinions on 39 percent of its assets, up from almost none in the 1990s. Patterson said that is a significant achievement for what he called "the largest and most complex organization in the world."

But subcommittee members faulted the department for its continued failure to collectively achieve a clean audit, which members said is among the management problems that affect war efforts.

"Not having an audited financial statement, not having procurement under control is in fact costing lives," Coburn said.

Subcommittee members faulted especially Pentagon officials' resistance to congressional pressure to create a full-time, high-level chief management officer to push through changes.

Critics say top department officials struggle to see through reforms because they are too busy and not on the job long enough. That argument has been advanced especially by Comptroller General David Walker.

The fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill would require the Pentagon create a full-time chief management officer reporting to Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England. The official would have a fixed term allowing him or her to stay on beyond the current administration.

The Pentagon has resisted that effort, arguing that England fills a CMO role and adding a position would create unneeded bureaucracy.

Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Business Transformation Paul Brinkley said at the hearing that by mandating a CMO, Congress would limit the department's flexibility.

Walker rejected that stance. "The only outlier in this [CMO] debate is the Department of Defense," he said. "And frankly I'm growing a little frustrated."

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.